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This entry has been cross-posted at DailyKos.com. Please drop a visit there and comment.

In October 2000, I was attending jumuah prayer in a Philadelphia mosque, and the Pakistani imam told everyone to vote for “the Bush.” According to Craig Unger’s book, House of Bush, House of Saud, made famous by Fahrenheit 9/11, Carl Rove attributed Bush’s ultimate victory in Florida to the Muslim vote.

And why were we told to vote for the Bush? Because Al Gore picked a Jewish running-mate, and Bush promised Sami Al-Arian to repeal secret evidence laws.

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If Muslims had just voted for Nader in protest, Gore may have won Florida.

Four years later, at the 2004 ISNA convention, Hamza Yusuf received a standing ovation for his “anyone but Bush” declaration.

Despite the change in sentiment, I have no real confidence that the major Muslim organizations have learned their lesson.

My suggestions:

-Muslims should focus on domestic issues, those immediately relevant to our lives in America, rather than hopeless political causes overseas.

-Muslims should align with religious groups that share a similar profile. This may be an effective way to defuse the right’s fear mongering without selling out to the libertine left.

-At the Texas Dawah Convention, I met some brothers from the Freedom and Justice Foundation (http://www.freeandjust.org) who made me more optimistic about Muslim political activism. Check them out and support them!

-Anyone who stood on a minbar in 2000 and told Muslims to vote for Bush (or “The Bush”) should have his mouth sewn shut until November, 2008. Anyone who voted for Bush in 2000 should ask the advice of someone who didn’t before casting a vote.

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Musa Maguire is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and accepted Islam after graduating from college. In 2004-2005, he received a Fulbright grant to study in Egypt, and then spent the following year working at Huda TV, an English-language Islamic satellite channel that broadcasts from Cairo.

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hassan

    May 2, 2007 at 4:13 PM

    Salaam. Brother Musa I agree with you, we need to see variety of issues before we decide whom to vote. And we should not be emotional like we were in 2000 for Bush, and anyone but Bush in 2004.

  2. Amad

    Amad

    May 2, 2007 at 4:58 PM

    Good post… poignant and to the point. I wrote something in similar vein… but it was much more rambling.

    Article: My Musings on the 2006 Elections: Democrats Won… Deja Vu? [Please don’t leave comments there, that blog is basically defunct, instead leave them here].

    Here is my conclusion from that post:

    “Getting back then to the deja vu. Will the Democrats take Muslims for a ride too, like Bush did? Of course they won’t touch Israel, unless they want AIPAC to eat them for lunch. So, will they really do anything for us? Personally, the cynical me says NO. And that’s where I will leave it. If they do something good for us, then that may prevent the Muslim pendulum from swinging back to the Republicans, or may be even to the Green Party (which in essence is a waste of vote, realistically speaking). If they mess up, like Georgie, well, then at least I didn’t have my hopes too high, to be dashed yet again!”

  3. Avatar

    Abu Bakr

    May 2, 2007 at 9:56 PM

    *If Muslims had just voted for Nader in protest, Gore may have won Florida.*

    Umm, but he did win Florida…

    and just for the record, I gave a khutbah in 2000 in which I stated that voting for Bush was “foolishness” and that he was “a snake”

    I agree with those points in general… but I think it’ll be hard to convince muslims to consider anything in 2008 besides issues like the Iraq War and the Patriot act when casting their votes… although, on the other hand, I’m not holding my breath for any candidate to come along and actually take meaningful stances on either of those two issues

  4. Avatar

    Mujahideen Ryder

    May 2, 2007 at 10:49 PM

    honestly it doesnt matter who wins this election, cuz bush is going regardless.

  5. Avatar

    doobiedoo

    May 2, 2007 at 11:14 PM

    My Suggestions:

    Religious figures (imams, sheikhs, priests, pastors, rabbis, etc) really need to keep their mouths shut and stop telling people who to vote for in their masjid, temple, or church. It completely and absolutely disgusts me and is none of their business whatsoever. They should stick to lecturing people about manners pertaining to whichever God they worship and their religion, not who to vote for. Any imam, priest, or rabbi who does tell their fellowship who to vote for in their masjid, temple, or church should be fired.

  6. Avatar

    DrM

    May 2, 2007 at 11:28 PM

    Rove is blowing smoke up people’s skirts by claiming Muslims made the difference. Bush won because of massive voter fraud. Sorry but Muslims have little to do with his “victory” despite their miscalculation.

  7. Amad

    Amad

    May 3, 2007 at 7:22 AM

    Doobiedoo… I can’t speak for all Imams… but at least the one I dealt with didn’t tell us who to vote. It was mostly our organizations and activists who suggested the direction of voting.

    It is much more happening in churches with the upper-level and significant links between big evangelical Christian groups and the Republican party, especially Bush. I would suggest everyone read the book American Theocracy… by Kevin Phillips if you wish to get a better sense of the deep and growing links between politics and religion in America.

  8. Avatar

    Musa Maguire

    May 3, 2007 at 11:48 AM

    Dr. M,

    I agree on the voter fraud issue, but I think the stats for Muslim voting was something like 90% of Florida’s 70,000 Muslim voters went for Bush. That’s 63,000 extra black folk to disenfranchise to gain a slim Bush victory.

  9. Avatar

    Abu Bakr

    May 3, 2007 at 1:28 PM

    Good point Musa… he needed every little bit he could get to lose the popular election and still win the electoral college vote with the slimmest of “margins” in the Supreme Court… err … I mean Florida

    And just for the record… it really is none of your business whatsoever as to what Imams, priests, shaykhs, rabbis tell their congregations

  10. Avatar

    doobiedoo

    May 3, 2007 at 3:38 PM

    “And just for the record… it really is none of your business whatsoever as to what Imams, priests, shaykhs, rabbis tell their congregations”

    Just for the record it absolutely is. If these places of worship happen to be receiving federal dollars than by law it is absolutely prohibited that they tell their congregations who to vote for. It is within my rights as a US taxpayer to complain, report them, and have their federal dollars stripped. And even if they are not receiving federal funding it is still in bad taste.

    And I definitely agree with you Amad about how evangelical churches are playing in and influencing politics (for the worse might I add). Which is why I think muslims should have some self control and NOT do what evangelicals are doing. Everybody, including me, has a problem with what they are doing, so why is it any different for imams who fashion themselves as some kind of political authority? There is no difference and there should be no difference in the minds of anyone.

  11. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    May 3, 2007 at 3:49 PM

    Here in Canada, I remember reading something in the news that suggested something similar – that certain groups and organizations would encourage their members/ congregations to vote for a certain political party.

    Some people were quite upset about it because they said it meant encouraging a “sheep” mentality, or at least meant that the leaders viewed their congregations as sheep, i.e. unable to think for themselves and decide who to vote for on an independant basis.
    Others said that it was a good thing because if we all got together and voted for the same party it could mean tipping the balance (however slight it may be) in our favour…

    Personally (and this is from someone who hasn’t even reached voting age yet! :P), I think we should try to work harder on social activism within our communities… politics is important, yes, because these are the people who are in charge of the ‘big stuff’, yet the greatest changes have always taken place at the ‘lower’ levels first; working from the bottom up works better than from the top down.

  12. Avatar

    doobiedoo

    May 3, 2007 at 4:08 PM

    I would definitely agree with your assessment Mouse. I personally think that the best way to change a society starts at home and within your own local community.

    I actually read a great article in the NY Times awhile ago about a evangelical Pastor of a huge church (something like 5000 members) who gave a series of sermons about the role of the church in politics. He essentially stated that the church’s role should start at home and within the community, not in the political arena the way it has become. He ended up losing about a 1/4 of his congregation because they were so angry. Anyways, it was a great article and one I think could apply to all faiths, not just the evangelical right.

    http://articles.news.aol.com/news/_a/disowning-conservative-politics-is/20060729195809990004

  13. Avatar

    Abu Bakr

    May 3, 2007 at 5:11 PM

    What you think is in bad taste or not is of no concern of mine…

  14. Avatar

    jinnzaman

    May 3, 2007 at 10:54 PM

    Assalamu alaikum

    There was a lengthy discussion about this on the Shield of Islam Forum when we tried to make electoral guides for different state.

    http://z14.invisionfree.com/Shield_of_Islam/index.php?showtopic=1069

    masalama

  15. Amad

    Amad

    May 3, 2007 at 11:01 PM

    ASA, Br. JZ: seems like a good effort mashalah.

    Would you pls share a summary of some of the main points for the benefit of the readers on this blog.

  16. Avatar

    Amir

    May 4, 2007 at 7:12 AM

    Much of the ‘Muslim vote’ in the first Bush election can be attributed to the efforts of Grover Norquist (of Americans for Tax Reform) and his outreach work with various Muslim organisations. Bush was seen by many of those involved at the time as being the best candidate and someone who was broadly sympathetic with Muslim concerns.

    Of course, it’s easy now to say — ex post — that it was all a terrible decision but I don’t know how anyone could have predicted before the first election that the Bush Administration would end up doing what it has done. In fact, had there been a Democrat president when September 11 happened, I suspect he would have done pretty much the same thing. The only difference would have been that the invasions were cast as ‘humanitarian interventions’ (rather than attempts to spread freedom) and done behind some sort of UN figleaf. And Allah knows best.

    As for the coming election, then I hope (naively, of course) than Ron Paul (see here for some of his videos) will win the Republican primaries and go on to become President!

  17. Avatar

    Musa Maguire

    May 4, 2007 at 10:40 AM

    Amir,

    My point is that anyone mildly versed in American politics, who deeply understand American society, could have told you that Bush would have been a nightmare for Muslims. If you had asked me in October 2000, I would have told you the same thing. It was as easy to say then as it is now.

    It is likely that anyone would have invaded Afghanistan after 9/11. It is unlikely that there would have been such a push to invade Iraq with a Democrat president…unless he had an affair and needed a distraction.

  18. Avatar

    Amir

    May 4, 2007 at 11:09 AM

    If you had asked me in October 2000, I would have told you the same thing. It was as easy to say then as it is now.

    What specifically did he say or do that made you aware he would become ‘a nightmare for Muslims’ in 2000?

    It’s interesting because the CAIR survey held right after the 2000 elections supports the view that American Muslims overwhelmingly supported Bush (72% for Bush, 8% for Gore). There were other surveys conducted before and after the elections that confirmed the same pattern. Unfortunately, what was obvious to you wasn’t obvious to the majority of American Muslims at the time though I suspect their voting habits may have changed in recent years (hopefully).

  19. Avatar

    Musa Maguire

    May 4, 2007 at 11:56 AM

    Akhi, it’s not what he said, it’s what he represents. He represents entrenched white elitism, big oil, the party that gets poor people to vote against their own interests by playing the racism card. He represents the pimping of Christian America by playing lip service to the whole “family values” thing.

    And contrary to the wishes of many immigrant Muslims, and regardless of what the census says, Arabs, Pakistanis, and other Muslims are a “dark” people in the eyes of white America. That is why you will see all the Republican candidates playing up the “Islamic enemy” thing (see umarlee.com today for a summary of the Republican debate). “The Saracen mobs want to kill you, vote for me.” They will never address issues that matter, because most Americans want jobs, healthcare, and education.

    I’m no partyline Democrat, and most politicians who make it to the national stage are fundamentally hustlers. But you have to understand what lies behind the parties and where we fit in. On the surface, Republican rhetoric is appealing to Muslims, but people like Bush represent a tiny elite that can only win by manipulating the majority, or just plain cheating.

    See the documentary American Blackout for a clearer picture on the cheating, and how the issue of race plays into it all.

  20. Amad

    Amad

    May 4, 2007 at 12:43 PM

    Br. Musa, in hindsight, you are absolutely right. We were sold off on a raw deal. But, I was part of that 72%, who was completely Bush’ized. It was either a candidate who mentioned Arabs and secret evidence (which was a big deal at the time… how far have we fallen off since 9/11 subhanallah!) or a candidate with an Orthodox Jew vice. And Lieberman’s Judaism extended beyond just personal religion, his support of Israel was/is probably more significant than others. Regardless, I think we put too much weight on his religion, and also in what we believed a VP could control.

    Also, your insight is not what I would consider ‘layman’ level with regards to the Republicans. Most people are like sheep, they follow the shepherds. And the average lay-Muslim depended on our shepherds (organizations such as CAIR, etc.) to do the homework and lead us on.

    Alhamdulilah, the Muslim populace is becoming much more mature in their political understandings and discourse. How many Muslims would have talked about Ron Paul several years ago? But, now many Muslims (Amir mentioned him sometime ago on Tariq’s blog) can pick out Ron, a Republican, as probably being a very good candidate for Muslims. That is a sign in itself of a higher degree of understanding.

    I know I have mentioned this book before, and you may wonder if this is the only one I have read (well that is almost true ;) ), but Musa what you are saying is captured remarkably in this book: American Theocracy… by Kevin Phillips.

  21. Avatar

    Abu Bakr

    May 4, 2007 at 1:06 PM

    As Br. Musa (or perhaps it was someone else) pointed out, you dont become president of America without supporting Israel, and quite frankly, even at that time, a fundamentalist Christian seemed no less worrying to me on that front than did an Orthodox Jew

  22. Avatar

    Abu Bakr

    May 4, 2007 at 1:09 PM

    And I recall hearing some talk on the grapevine before Bush was actually elected that his whole motivation of pursuing politics was to avenge his father… and that he had talked about going after Saddam… this was not something publicized, and I dont recall any sources for it except that I recall I didn’t trust him as a result of that (I did not at that time foresee something like 9/11 giving him the alibi to invade Iraq however)

  23. Avatar

    Musa Maguire

    May 4, 2007 at 11:14 PM

    Amad,

    I deleted our comments, so this thread didn’t just turn into our joking and trash-talking.

    Anyway, there’s a new political thread, a good opportunity to bash Republicans….

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